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U.S. Open 2019: Tiger Woods explains why he was better at the Masters than the PGA

Sporting News — (Thomas Lott)

Tiger Woods was on top of the world in April.

He won his 15th career major but first since the U.S. Open in 2008 with a superb performance on the back nine at the Masters.

But two weeks later he was a completely different golfer. He couldn't keep the ball in the fairway at Bethpage Black at the PGA Championship and missed the cut after shooting 5 over through two rounds.

So what was the difference between his game at the two events which were all of a month apart?

"Augusta I was right where I needed to be," Woods told reporters at his press conference Tuesday before the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. "I was hitting it high, I could shape it either way and I could really hit a high hook. I felt very comfortable hitting a high hook with a sand wedge, high hook with a draw, any one of those shots. And on those greens to be able to take some of the slope out with curve, even around the greens, to spin the ball either left to right or right to left, and flatten those greens out, that was fun. I had it right where I need to be.

"Bethpage, a different story. I was good going into the week, unfortunately, just didn't feel well. And this week I feel like I'm trending in the right direction, I need one more day on the front, I want to see the golf course when it's a little bit closer to game time. … I know they're holding it back, I just want to see how they're going to let it go."

Woods was a distinctly different golfer at Augusta than in New York.

In Augusta he was in the fairway and hitting greens at a high rate, but at Bethpage he was constantly in the rough and consistently scrambling to just get on the green. Some of that had to do with his ball flight, but just as much had to do with his health and Woods readily admitted that Tuesday as he did at the PGA Championship.

“I just wasn’t moving the way I needed to,” Woods said after his second and final round, via the New York Times. “That’s the way it goes. There’s going to be days and weeks where it just doesn’t work.”

This week he's already dealt with some problems. He didn't play a practice round Tuesday and his press conference was pushed back as he was dealing with some issues. He told reporters he was dealing with being physically sick as well as with some back stiffness.

It's not the start he wanted, but he knows if he can get right by his first round Thursday, and if he can keep it in the fairway on a course which isn't overly long, he has a chance to compete.

"If I feel good then I feel like I can play any venue," Woods said Tuesday. "It's just that when I'm stiff and not moving as well it becomes a little bit more difficult.

"Now this week we're all going to be playing from virtually the same spots, especially if it dries out, the longer guys will be hitting (a) shorter club, shorter guys will be able to hit driver down there, it's overall playing from the same spots, now how do you put the ball in the correct position is the key.

"And these greens, we don't face greens like this, this small and this deep and so it puts a premium on iron play because I feel like most of the field can put the ball in the fairways. They're plenty wide, the golf course is not overly long, but how do you put the ball in the right spot so you can have putts at it?"

Woods tees off at 5:09 p.m. ET in Round 1 on Thursday alongside Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose.